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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Val Kilmer

- Kilmer in Willow

This is the last day of January, so here's my last installment of "January is actors-I-like month" and this time I've chosen Val Kilmer. I've already posted in the past about some of his movies, like Thunderheart and Deja Vu, but here below are some of the other movies in which I've liked him ....

Willow (1988) was the first movie of his I had seen. It was directed by Ron Howard and produced/co-written by George Lucas, and told a sort of fantasy/sword and sorcery story. It's been a long time since I saw it and I wasn't overwhelmed, but it had some nice special effects.

Another film of his I liked was Tombstone (1993), in which he played Doc Holiday. The movie also starred Kurt Russell, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn and Charlton Heston, and told the story of Wyatt Earp and the shootout at the O.K. Corral. I thought the movie was quite good, to the point I read up on the real Earp and Holiday.

- Russell and Kilmer

A really good film in which Kilmer had a part was Heat, a remake of L.A. Takedown, a 1989 made-for-television film. It was directed by Michael Mann and starred Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Kilmer played one of the members of a criminal team of bank robbers lead by De Niro's character. The film's pretty violent but I was touched by a lot of it.

- Kilmer in Heat

The next movie I remember seeing him in was At First Sight (1999) which also starred Mira Sorvino. It was based on a story by Oliver Sacks, the neurologist (I read one of his books - really interesting guy), about a blind man who through an operation is suddenly able to see. I don't think it did well at the box office, but I liked it. Here's a trailer for it ....

Watch At First Sight (1999) in Entertainment Videos  |  View More Free Videos Online at

One of my favorite Kilmer movies, probably because it's science fiction, was Red Planet (2000), which also starred Carrie-Anne Moss, Tom Sizemore, Terence Stamp and Benjamin Bratt. In the near future, Earth is doomed by pollution and of an unmanned terraforming project is started on Mars to ready it for human habitation. When the growing oxygen in Mars' atmosphere begins to unaccountably diminish, a crew of scientists is sent by spaceship to find out why and fix things. As you would expect, everything goes terribly wrong :) The movie didn't do well at the box office but I thought it was pretty good - much better than a film about Mars released at the same time, Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars starring Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins. Here's Roger Ebert's review of it (3 stars) ....


"Red Planet" would have been a great 1950s science fiction film. It embodies the kind of nuts-and-bolts sci-fi championed by John W. Campbell Jr. in his Astounding magazine--right down to the notion that a space mission would be staffed by research scientists, and although there would be a woman on board, she would not be the kind of woman depicted in an aluminum brassiere on the covers of his competitors. This is a film where much of the suspense involves the disappearance of algae.

The film has been sneered at in some quarters because it is not the kind of brainless high-tech computerized effects extravaganza now in favor. I like its emphasis on situation and character. I've always been fascinated by zero-sum plots in which a task has to be finished within the available supplies of time, fuel and oxygen.

Waiting for the screening to start, I was talking with a dive instructor about the challenge of diving inside glaciers. "Any time you take away unobstructed access to the surface," he told me, "you're talking technical diving, and that makes you more of an astronaut than a diver." I thought of that during "Red Planet," which is about four men who have essentially dived down to the surface of Mars, whose air is running out, and who do not have access to the spaceship circling above.

The movie takes place in 2025, when mankind has polluted the Earth beyond the point of no return, and is seeking a new planet to colonize. Mars is bombarded with robot space probes carrying various strains of bio-engineered algae. The earth-born organisms seem to thrive, and green pastures spread on Mars. A space mission is launched to send a crew of scientists to investigate a curious thing. The algae seems to have disappeared. Really disappeared. It didn't simply die off, because that would have left withered remains. It seems to have . . . dematerialized.

This discovery takes place after a troubled voyage. The interplanetary ship, commanded by Bowman (Carrie-Anne Moss), has gone through a gamma ray storm, disabling a lot of its equipment. The Mars lander descends to the surface with Gallagher (Val Kilmer), Burchenal (Tom Sizemore), Santen (Benjamin Bratt), Pettengil (Simon Baker) and the scientist-philosopher Chantilas (Terence Stamp). It runs into trouble, too, has to jettison some of its equipment, and then there's a sensational landing scene. The lander is cocooned within huge, tough air bags so it can bounce to a soft landing. But when it bounces off a cliff, the ride gets rocky for the men inside.

Also along is AMEE, a robotic tracker and warrior that has, alas, not been programmed nearly carefully enough with Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. The men are left with an incomplete landing module and must depend on a supply station dropped by previous missions. And then . . .

Everything else should come as a surprise. What pleased me, however, was the nature of the situation they find on Mars. The movie's ads seem to suggest Bug-Eyed Monsters of some sort, but the actual story developments are more ingenious and reasonable. John Campbell, who liked semi-plausible scientific speculation in his stories, might have enjoyed the way "Red Planet" accounts for the disappearance of the algae. There is a scene--call it the fireworks scene--that in its own way is one of the more memorable encounters I've seen with extraterrestrial life forms.

The acting is serviceable. Most of it consists of functional observations and commands. Terence Stamp is given a brief opportunity to philosophize about the limitations of science, Val Kilmer is convincing as a competent space jockey with a mechanical and scientific background, and Carrie Anne-Moss, whose character Bowman is a nod to Dave Bowman from "2001: A Space Odyssey," is convincing as a no-nonsense pilot. But just like in 1950s sci-fi, the story's strong point isn't psychological depth or complex relationships, but brainy scientists trying to think their way out of a box that grows smaller every minute. To like that kind of story is to like this kind of movie.


The Examen on YouTube :)

Today I saw a YouTube about the Ignatian prayer method, the examen (you can read more about the examen in this article at American Catholic), and I thought I'd post it here ....

Oh, and just saw another one on finding God in all things ....

Two things ....

I don't mean to keep harping on the same subject, but I saw two articles today that touched on the SSPX thing and there was something of interest in each that I wanted to point out ....

One was a post by Fr. James Martin SJ at America magazine's blog. In this post - The Anti-Semitism of the Society of St. Pius X - he points out that the anti-Semitic beliefs of Richard Williamson are not unique to him but a feature of the Society of St. Pius X. This is easily seen through a visit to their website and a glance through one of their articles posted there, THE MYSTERY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE IN HISTORY. I find it hard to believe that the Pope didn't know about this stuff, and wonder what that says, then, about his choice to redeem these guys.

The other article I wanted to draw attention to was in The New York Times - The Holocaust Furor and the U.S. Bishops - which asks the question of why not a single US Bishop has spoken a word of doubt about the Pope's decision. I thought I'd post it all here below ....


The Holocaust Furor and the U.S. Bishops
Published: January 30, 2009

Does the Roman Catholic Church believe that popes, in conducting the ordinary affairs of the church, can never make mistakes? Ask any Catholic bishop that question, and he will reply, “Of course not.”

That is a common misconception, the bishop will say; on the contrary, history attests that popes can prove all too human, and the idea that they are preserved by God from error applies only to very solemn pronouncements on very special questions of faith and morals.

Another common misconception, the bishop would also say, is that the church is an absolute monarchy, with popes as religious versions of Louis XIV declaring, “L’église c’est moi.” The bishops themselves, he would add, are not just papal branch managers but descendants of the apostles, each bishop, no less than the pope himself, recognized as a “vicar of Christ.”

Given that teaching, one would expect that at least one of 433 active or retired Catholic bishops in the United States might have voiced some misgivings or raised some questions about Pope Benedict XVI’s recent action in revoking the excommunication of four bishops — including one who has denied the Holocaust — of an ultratraditionalist schismatic group, the Society of St. Pius X.

As of Friday afternoon, Catholic News Service knew of not one who had done so.

To be sure, prominent bishops, primarily in Europe, and then the pope himself were quick to insist that the church rejected Holocaust denial and any form of anti-Semitism.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops distributed talking points explaining all the recondite details of church law involved in the 1988 excommunication of the schismatic leaders and exactly what the pope’s action last Saturday does and does not do regarding their present status, which remains at considerably less than full communion with the church and the pope.

The talking points repeat the church’s “authoritative teaching” that God has never abandoned the Jewish people and that all forms of anti-Semitic teaching, including charges of Jewish deicide, are “unacceptable from the standpoint of Catholic teaching today.”

These positions, solemnly taken in 1965 at the Second Vatican Council, are among the council’s declarations that led Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre to break with Rome and form the Society of St. Pius X, which the pope now seeks to bring back into good standing in the church.

On Friday, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, the current chairman of the United States bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, said Catholics were “embarrassed” by this episode and needed to reaffirm their bonds with Jews.

But no bishop, it appears, has added a public word of doubt about the wisdom of Pope Benedict’s action, or wondered out loud how it came about.

The pope’s action has provoked a crisis in Catholic-Jewish relations. But you don’t have to be Jewish to be outraged by Holocaust denial. Many Catholics are upset, and they are upset not only because Jews are upset.

The problem is more than Bishop Richard Williamson, the British-born, Holocaust-denying schismatic. He is a man who insists that on Sept. 11 the World Trade Center was brought down by explosives, not airplanes, and the Pentagon was hit by a guided missile, a man who declares trousers for women “an assault on woman’s womanhood” and that women should not attend universities, none of which is likely to make him a very effective missionary for Holocaust denial.

Further, the Society of St. Pius X itself has disowned his views on the Holocaust, if belatedly, and barred him from repeating them, although others of like mind remain in its ranks.

No, the further problem, for Catholics no less than for Jews, is puzzlement about the pope and his leadership. No one believes that he shares Bishop Williamson’s grotesque views about the Holocaust. But was he somehow uninformed about them? Or was he aware of them but inclined to minimize their significance? Or did he disregard how they might poison what he was trying to accomplish? None of the alternatives seem comforting.

Even Catholics who understand the priority that church leaders always give to healing any formal schism that can perpetuate itself are puzzling over the Vatican’s extraordinary solicitude for this relatively small ultratraditionalist sect.

They wonder whether proponents of liberation theology or women’s ordination need to enlist a few schismatic bishops, who might ordain further bishops, in order to get a similar hearing in Rome.

And of course there are Catholics who dread — and some who hope — that the accommodations made to the Society of St. Pius X augur a larger reversal of the work of Vatican II.

Surely Catholic bishops are aware of the corrosive effect that these kinds of nagging questions can have on the faith of their people. A few such questions have quite likely nagged at some bishops themselves. But so far none of them have chosen to discuss the matter out loud.

This silence would be understandable if the bishops’ only option were to engage in harsh criticism. But they have plenty of respectful, charitable alternatives, from merely acknowledging that the papal action was troubling or perplexing to indicating that they are requesting clarification of Rome’s procedures and the pope’s intentions.

It’s a safe bet that during the last week, private expressions of dismay or bewilderment have been flying from bishop to bishop and from bishops to Rome.

Still, that does not satisfy Jews. Nor does it assure millions of concerned Catholics that their questions and anxieties are shared by leaders determined to discuss them charitably, candidly, maturely, in a way suited to what the bishops themselves teach about the church and the papacy.

Who will speak up first?


Thursday, January 29, 2009

SSPX and Vatican II

Here's part of one of The Tablet's latest editorials .....


Not yet back in the fold
31 January 2009

The announcement of the lifting of the excommunication of the four bishops illicitly ordained by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre has been received badly .....

The breakaway of Archbishop Lefebvre and his movement was widely interpreted at the time as being connected with the preservation of the old Latin Mass. The recent re-establishment of the Tridentine Rite as an alternative form of Mass by Pope Benedict has drawn most of the poison from that issue; the rest will come when the Society also accepts, as it surely must, that the post-Vatican II form is equally valid. But not far below the surface of the Lefebvrist movement have lurked some rather more disturbing views, not only its commitment to an ancien-régime style of Counter-Reformation Catholicism, but also to a virulent brand of Catholic anti-Semitism which has a long and disgraceful history, particularly in France (where the movement is strongest).

Bishop Williamson's recent remarks [denying the Holocaust] have to be read in that context. The Lefebvrists reject, for instance, the teaching of the Vatican II decree Nostra Aetate, including its key repudiation of the charge of "deicide" (literally god-killing, because of the supposed Jewish role in the death of Jesus). Lifting the excommunication of someone like Williamson, while he is still publicly propagating his bigoted opinions, sends an appalling signal to the world in general and to Jews in particular. To say of these opinions that they are "totally unacceptable", as the Bishops of England and Wales did in a statement this week, hardly does justice to them. They are evil.

Nostra Aetate is not the only Vatican II document the Lefebvrists contest. They do not like its key document Lumen Gentium, which sets out the basis for a modern constitution for the Catholic Church. They have rejected the decree on ecumenism, which brought an end to the post-Reformation conflict between Catholics and Protestants worldwide; and they rejected the decree on religious liberty, one of Vatican II's most radical departures from previous positions which was, for instance, a flat contradiction of Pope Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors. With such documents as these, Vatican II created a new consciousness of what it was to be a Catholic. To be told by the Society that one of its main aims in seeking the lifting of the excommunication is so that it can work towards the rejection of that consciousness and the restoration of a pre-conciliar style of Catholicism is divisive and offensive. If this is the baggage they propose bringing with them, they would be better left out in the cold .....


This is what human life is like

I'm used to reading political stuff at Andrew Sullivan's blog but sometimes he talks about religion too. Here was a post today that I found interesting .....


Dissent Of The Day

A reader writes:

You wrote:

"I do not experience being Catholic as a choice any more than I experience being gay as a choice."

But as you must know, these are completely different things. It is one thing to have one's thoughts influenced or shaped by the tradition one was brought up in; I would think no one could avoid that. But affirming the truth of a particular faith is always a choice, and you always have the power and right to affirm the faith you were brought up in, or another, or none. I cannot understand any reason for pretending that one has no choice in the matter -- and to me it is pretending, and morally unserious, and in fact, dangerous.

Simone Weil wrote that Jesus wants us to prefer the truth to him, because before being himself, he is the truth. When we think we see a contradiction between the truth and Jesus, we have misunderstood one or the other, and should sort it out: Weil said that when we think we see Jesus standing apart from the truth, we must turn aside from Jesus, and toward the truth; but when we do so, we do not take more than a step toward the truth without falling forward into his arms, realizing that he was standing at the truth all along, and where we thought he had been standing apart from the truth was an illusion or a mistake.

Weil's view is my own. What I meant by the lack of choice is that there have been moments in my life when I have indeed sensed the loss of faith or its slackening or, at one moment, its inversion. But even in its inversion - fifteen interminable minutes when I didn't wonder if God existed, but if God really was evil - the despair was lifted by a force greater than my own.

What has kept me believing is not, as I have experienced it, a conscious act of will. It is more an acceptance of God's grace. My experience of Jesus will not let go of me, however much I would like to let go of it. This element of faith - its involuntary pull as well as its voluntary push - is how I have found it.

One can only describe here and say: this is what human life is like.

I mean no more than that, but the internal wrestling never ends. The search for truth must always be first; and religion is nothing if it is not true. Which is why doubt can never be a danger. Banishing doubt is the danger.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I came across an audio version of a Spiritual Exercises type retreat given by Larry Gillick SJ. The retreat lives on this Creighton University page, and there are 14 mp3 files to it, plus written blurbs for each part. Here's what the introduction says ....


These Retreat Conferences begin with a short introductory prayer followed by a thirty-minute conference based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Though the retreat was shared with seventy men at the Jesuit Retreat House near St. Paul, Minnesota, the spirit and direction of the retreat is for women and men of all Christian faiths. Poems used during the conferences are taken from the book Gitanjeli by Tagore.

This retreat may be made in a variety of ways, by individuals or a group:

* over a 3 day weekend
* over 14 days, one conference a day
* over 14 weeks, one conference a week.

[this is the blurb for the first mp3 file]
There is no Owner's Manual for our relating with God; God does the initiating of this relationship. We put ourselves in postures of receptivity and availability. We are all in "recovery" from the results of choosing those things which are not good for us. We can fear what God is going to take from us, but the truth is that we watch and wonder what God is going to give us. "It takes reckless courage to face our personal abyss." Silence of body, mind and heart might be fearful at first, but silence becomes communication in time. Psalm 139 ........


I've listened to the first introductory talk and liked it - think I'll try to listen to one each day til I'm done :)

Start with your name ...

- Cinderella

There are so many different places to be online ... blog-world, twitter, facebook, myspace, goodreads, second life, etc ..... and I get them all mixed up sometimes. I was tagged with a meme by William on facebook but sice I'm hopeless there, I thought I'd post my part of the meme here and invite those who want to to follow suit in the comments section or on your own blogs. Here's how it goes ...

Use the first letter of your name to answer each of the following questions. They have to be real . . . nothing made up! If the person before you had the same first initial, you must use different answers. You cannot use any word twice and you can't use your name for the boy/girl name question.

01. What is your name: Crystal

02. A four Letter Word: Cork

03. A boy's Name: Canute

04. A girl's Name: Cassiopea

05. An occupation: Carpenter

06. A color: Crimson

07. Something you wear: Camisole

08: Explanation for why Andrew had no #8: Clueless

09. A food: Cookies! :)

10. Something found in the bathroom: Cockroach :(

11. A place: Constantinople

12. A reason for being late: Catnap

13. Something you shout: Cool!

14. A movie title: Cinderella

15. Something you drink: Champaign

16. A musical group: Cream

17. An animal: Cat

18. A street name: Champs-Elysées

19. A type of car: Citroen

20. The title of a song: Camelot

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas

You can find the strangest things on YouTube. Here below is a video of a bit of a lecture by Ralph McInerny, Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Jacques Maritain Center, and Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame ... and the author of Father Dowling Mysteries :) .... on Thomas Aquinas.

Me and The Shack

I posted some time ago about the book The Shack and the reviews of it by Fr. Ron Rolheiser (Evangelizing the Religious Imagination) and Professor Ben Witherington (SHACKING UP WITH GOD—William P. Young’s ‘The Shack’), but strangely now I can't find it. I hadn't read the book myself and didn't especially want to, but I signed up to get the audio version of it from the library, and as I was about 40 on a list of 40 waiting for it, I felt pretty safe :) Then Mike was kind enough to send me an audio copy and I no longer had an excuse not to read it.

I certainly can't add anything to what Fr. Rolheiser and Ben have already written about the book, aside from just a personal take but since the book is about theodicy, something I struggle with, I felt it's ok to mention a few things. For those who have read the book - if I remember something incorrectly, feel free to jump in, because I don't have a text copy to refer to. And for those who haven't read it - beware, for spoilers abound.

The story is of a man, Mack, married with children, and with a good job, living in Oregon, who had had a bad childhood (abusive father), and who loses a small daughter years later to a serial child killer. He spends a few years becoming more and more bitter and distanced from his Christian faith, then one day gets a note in the mail asking him to meet "Papa" at the shack. Papa is the name his wife, a devout Christian, calls God, and the shack is the place in the mountains where his daughter was taken and killed. He keeps the note a secret and the next weekend, when his family goes off elsewhere, he drives to the shack, though he has no idea who could have sent the note .... perhaps his daughter's murderer? Once there, he steps into what seems like a hallucination - the winter cold turns to springtime, the broken-down shack is rebuilt, the blood stains left by his daughter vanish, and three people are waiting for him there ... Papa, who is God the Father represented as an African-American woman, the Holy Spirit, represented as an Asian woman, and Jesus, represented as a modern-day Jewish man. Mack spends the weekend with these three and is transformed by their interaction with him.

What I didn't like about The Shack ....

The writer of the book has God tell Mack that Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden really did exist. I'm not sure if that makes him a Creationist, but it seems (to me) to fly in the face of the theory of evolution and the scientific/historical data that says the human race could not have derived from two parents.

And, going along with this, God also tells Mack that all the bad stuff in the world has and does transpire because of Adam and Eve's desire for independence, and our continued desire for independence from God. I guess this is a kind of "free will" excuse for the problem of evil. I have to say this isn't what I call a satisfactory answer because I doubt our ability to freely choose is up to the task. As Professor Richard Beck wrote of free will in a past Experimental Theology post about the book Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology by Marilyn McCord Adams ....


[...] Adams is weak volitional because she correctly notes that free will approaches crash on the rocks of horrors. As Adams writes (p. 49), "Radical vulnerability to horrors arises because human psycho-spiritual powers are not reliably great enough to achieve and sustain an appropriate functional coordination between [the] two dimensions [i.e., physical and spiritual] of human being in a material world such as this. ..... Starting with the horrendous predicament of humankind, I have painted a more pessimistic picture of human agency than traditional free-fall approaches draw of Adam and Eve in Eden ... I insist that human agency could not have enough stature to shift responsibility for the way things are off God's shoulders onto ours. I deny our competence to organize personal animality into functional harmony, much less to anticipate and steer our way clear of horrors" (p. 50) ..... “By definition, horrors stump our meaning-making capacities. Individual (as opposed to merely collective) horror-participation can break our capacity to make positive sense of our lives, can so fragment our sense of self and so damage our agency as to make authentic choice impossible" (p. 207) ...


Me here again, continuing with what I didn't like in The Shack ....

And God goes on to say, in The Shack, that the suffering due to evil is made up for by Jesus' sacrifice of himself - his co-suffering with us (or at least, that's what I remember hearing). While I do appreciate Jesus' choice to be here with us, the idea that he chose on purpose to suffer and die, the idea that our sufferings are made ok by the chance to suffer with him, is just odd to the anti-atonement me. As David Bentley Hart wrote in The Doors of the Sea ....

[...] emphasis on our participation in Christ's redemptive suffering, in keeping with Colossians 1:24 ..... for one thing, it seems oddly imperious to impose such an explanation on the sufferings of those who are not Christian (as were most of the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami), or upon the sufferings of those who throughout the ages have lived and died apart from any knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, or for that matter upon the sufferings of animals .... The cross of Christ is not, after all, simply an eternal validation of pain and death, but their ovethrow.

I guess what I mean to say is that while it may help those suffering to know that Jesus/God understands suffering from the ground up, it's not a good answer to the question of why we have to suffer in the first place.

And finally, when Mack tells God that he accepts that it is free will that causes evil and suffering (grrrr), he then asks if God can intervene once a bad thing is about to happen (like the murder of his daughter), and if so, why God doesn't. He's told that God could indeed intervene and stop bad stuff, but that he chooses not to. And that he can't tell Mack why, because Mack wouldn't be able to understand. I know, I know, the ways of God are mysterious, but oh, such a cop-out!!! And as Ben Witherington points out in his review of the book, the God of the Bible does actually intervene, and he doesn't seem to have that much of a problem with free will (the conversion of Paul).

OK, now that I've vented, I can go on to say what I liked about The Shack ......

The best thing about The Shack, from my point of view, is that it emphasizes the importance of a personal relationship between people and God. The God of The Shack asked Mack to get together because he wanted to interact, he wanted to allow Mack to ask all his questions and have (most :) of them answered, in person. There's a lot of hugging, hand holding, and in-depth conversation in The Shack. Papa cooks for Mack and the four of them eat together. Jesus and Mack lay on their backs together at night and gazed for hours up at the stars. God is, well, a person in The Shack, and even given all the stuff I didn't like about the book, I couldn't fail to be touched by the love expressed, love that can only exist in relationship.

For those interested in reading more about The Shack or the author, you can visit his website - You are welcome here…

Monday, January 26, 2009

Andy Garcia is Lorca :)

Time for the third installment of "January is actors-I-like month" and my choice is ... Andy Garcia. Here's a little about him from Wikipedia ...

Andy García (born Andrés Arturo García; April 12, 1956) is an Academy Award-nominated American actor ..... born in Bejucal, La Habana Province, Cuba ..... When Garcia was five years old, the family moved to Miami, Florida after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. Over a period of several years they built up a million-dollar perfume company. García was raised as a Catholic and attended Miami Beach Senior High School, where he played on the basketball team. During his last year in high school he became ill with mononucleosis, which convinced him to pursue a career in acting. García began acting at Florida International University, but soon went to Hollywood ....

Here are a few of the movies I've liked him in .....

The Untouchables (1987)
This film starred Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, and Sean Connery and was directed by Brian De Palma, the script adapted by David Mamet. As everyone knows, it tells the tale of how G man Eliot Ness brought down gangster Al Capone during the Prohibition era. Garcia played a mamber of Ness' team, Italian-American George Stone, chosen from the police academy for his marksmanship. A pretty good movie, though violent, and I'm still impressed by the courage of the real-life guys.

Black Rain (1989)
This was kind of a B movie, I guess, and it got some criticism for Japan-bashing, but I can still remember going to see it with my mom so I'm fond of it :) It starred Michael Douglas as an ethically challenged but basically good New York City police officer (Garcia played his partner) who arrests and then escorts back to Japan a member of the Yakuza. Once he and his partner get there, the bad guy gets away and everything goes very south. Here's a YouTube of the trailer ....

Dead Again (1991)
This movie, while not all that good, is memorable for being Kenneth Branagh's attempt at the American Noir genre. It stars Branagh as an LA private detective who helps an amnesia-afflicted woman (played by his then wife Emma Thompson), with flash-backs of them both as other people back in the Hollywood of the 40s, entwined in a murder mystery .... yep, we're talking reincarnation :) Robin Williams has a small part as a defrocked psychiatrist and Andy Garcia plays a newspaper reporter who is alive both in the 40s and the present and who has pertinent clues to the solving of the murder. Here's the trailer for this film ....

The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca (1997)
I haven't seen this film, but I thought I'd mention it because how many movies do you get to see about famous poets? Here is Roger Ebert's review of the movie (3 stars) .....


Near the beginning of "The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca,'' a teenage boy attends an opening night in Madrid, Spain, in 1934--a performance of a work by the poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca. Twenty years later he recalls, "That night I learned that poetry could be an act of violence.'' Backstage, he is introduced to the poet, who asks, "How old are you?'' "Fourteen,'' he replies. "So am I,'' says the poet, adding, "Remember me.'' Not long after, Garcia Lorca is dead, another victim of the Spanish Civil War. He had thought perhaps he was too visible to be assassinated by the forces of the fascist rebel Franco, but he was wrong. And ever since there has been a veil of mystery over questions of how Garcia Lorca was killed, and by whom.

This movie, based on two books by Ian Gibson, is a reconstruction and speculation, told through the eyes of the boy, Ricardo, who moves with his family to Puerto Rico and tells his father one day in 1954 that he intends to return to Spain and try to find out what happened. For his father, all of that is in the past, and, with Franco still in power, best left there. But the boy, now grown to manhood and played by Esai Morales, returns anyway, and begins to unravel the secrets of the death.

Garcia Lorca, played by Andy Garcia, is seen in the movie as an artist whose very existence is a challenge to the insurgents. What is often forgotten about Spain, because it reverses the usual pattern, is that the elected government was left-wing, and the rebels were fascists; Franco was supported by Hitler and Mussolini, and the air battles in Spain were seen by historians as a dress rehearsal for the Luftwaffe.

To the rebels, the famous poet was a symbol, and his poetry like a red flag at a bullfight. But Garcia Lorca was also well-connected, with influence, with powerful friends. There is a scene where he strides confidently from a house to where some military men are beating his friend; he thinks his prestige will be enough to stop them, but he is wrong, and a fascist goon named Centeno (Miguel Ferrer) slugs him in the stomach. Garcia Lorca does not quite realize even after this event that his society has changed fundamentally, that a new class is taking power, that he is doomed.

Returning to Spain in 1954, Ricardo meets a publisher named Lozano (Edward James Olmos), who is bringing out a handsome edition of Garcia Lorca's works. "But ... didn't you arrest him?'' Ricardo asks. Lozano replies, "You're a brave man, Ricardo. No one else has been brave enough to say that to me.'' Lozano did sign the arrest order, and was possibly present at the death, along with others who would now rewrite their roles in history.

The lesson apparently is that the poets who are alive are a threat to repression, but dead poets can be safely embalmed as national treasures or legends. The film is also about how the secrets of the past still hold their power for revenge, if they are exposed, and in 1954 there are many people still alive who know how and why Garcia Lorca was killed--people whose current lives cannot accommodate that knowledge, so that Ricardo's quest is a threat.

Ricardo enters a Madrid where there are suspicious eyes and ears everywhere, and a taxi driver (Giancarlo Giannini) may be a friend, or a spy. Where nothing is simple, and people who thought they had sufficient reason in 1934 to side with the fascists and the Third Reich no longer wish their association to be recalled. The movie is a murder investigation, really, except that Ricardo will also be discovering things about his own origin that he does not suspect.

Do people read Garcia Lorca today? Or poetry in general? Not many, I suppose. I read some of his poems after seeing the movie, and felt the passion. But Garcia Lorca is perhaps more important today as a symbol than as a poet, and this film is really not so much about him as about memory and history--about how poets are given most of their power not by those who love them, but by those who fear them.


Today in History

- Cardinal Augustin Bea, credited with drafting Nostra Aetate and guiding it in numerous meetings through various obstacles during the Second Vatican Council. Bea was first President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Fifty years ago today, Pope John XXIII gave notice of his intention to convene what became the Vatican II Council (25 January 1959). Wikipedia writes ....

Throughout the 1950s, theological and biblical studies of the Roman Catholic Church had begun to sway away from the neo-scholasticism and biblical literalism that the reaction to the Modernist heresy had enforced since the First Vatican Council. This shift could be seen in theologians such as Karl Rahner S.J., and John Courtney Murray S.J. who looked to integrate modern human experience with Christian dogma, as well as others such as Yves Congar, Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and Henri de Lubac who looked to what they saw as a more accurate understanding of scripture and the early Church Fathers as a source of renewal ("ressourcement") ..... One of the most controversial documents was Nostra Aetate, which stated that the Jews of the time of Christ, taken indiscriminately, and all Jews today are no more responsible for the death of Christ than Christians ....

And this week B16 lifts the ban of excommunication of four bishops from the Society of St. Pius X, a group that has not agreed to accept the authority of that Council, and which has as a prominent member, "Bishop" Richard Williamson, who has called Jews the enemies of Christ and who denies the Holocaust..

Here's a bit from Fr. James Martin's latest post at America magazine's blog ....

[...] This morning, the New York Times affirms that, quoting Cardinal Walter Kasper, the prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Vatican's point person in Jewish-Christian relations, who said that he was not consulted about the decision. "It was the decision of the pope."

Is the pope seeking reconciliation with the extreme right, even at the cost of downplaying the authority of the Second Vatican Council? (The Society of St. Pius X has not agreed to accept the authority of the Council.) For one answer to that, see our exhaustive cover story, by Joseph Komonchak, one of the leading experts on the Council, entitled "Novelty and Continuity: Pope Benedict's Interpretation of Vatican II."

Another point: While some have argued that the comments by Bishop Williamson--who has denied that 6 million Jews could have died in Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust--are unrelated to the theological import of the removal of the ban of excommunication, there is an obvious link. One of the Second Vatican Council's most important documents, "Nostra Aetate," marked the beginning of a new age of friendly relations between the church and the Jewish people, and ushered in an era of greater understanding. It is not surprising that the bishop who made such scandalous statements about the Holocaust belongs to a group that has rejected Vatican II, because this necessarily means rejection of "Nostra Aetate."

Also, the four SSPX bishops were consecrated in an "illicit" ordination by the breakaway Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a move that sparked the original excommunication. Yet just last summer, the Vatican threatened the excommunication of Roy Bourgeous, the Maryknoll who participated in the (illicit and invalid) ordination of a woman priest. In other words, the excommunication of both sprang from the similar offenses to church teaching. One could even argue that the consecration of bishops was a greater threat to church unity.

Which raises the question: Why reconcile with the far right but not the far left?

If you're interested, there's a short essay by Fr. Richard McBrien at The National Catholic Reporter - John XXIII calls the council

And here's a video I came across about Vatican II. It has some great images of the Council and some interesting commentary from many different guys - it's worth a look (you have no idea how hard it was to find one that was positive :) ....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Silencing is a terrible, awesome thing

I saw a post I really liked today at America magazine's blog. I tried to pick out just bits of it because it's long, but then it didn't make as much sense, so here is the whole post below ......


The Silenc/ing of Roger Haight, SJ
- Francis X. Clooney, S.J.

Just after Christmas I splurged on-line, searching out at used book sites the seven volumes of Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Glory of the Lord, his wonderful and extensive reflection on the aesthetic element in our theological and spiritual knowledge, our apprehension of the beautiful in our encounter with God. Since I had previously collected the five volumes of the Theo-drama and the three volumes of the Theo-logic (all in English, I confess), I now have the entirety of this grand work. I love pulling a volume off the shelf and reading what von Balthasar says about one of the Christian tradition’s great monastic or lay writers, mystics or theologians. I hope this interest of mine is not surprising. I am, as you will know by now if you have reading me at this site over the past year and more, a comparative theologian, and I spend a good part of my time studying classical Hindu literature. To some, surely, this means that my tastes are liberal. But in fact, my study of India has only deepened my respect for our classical tradition, and so too for solid, serious, deep theologians such as von Balthasar among the Catholics, and Karl Barth among the Protestants.

I mention this because I have felt the need, for weeks now, to say something about the recent Vatican decision to bar Roger Haight, SJ from teaching and writing. I am sure you know about the case against his Jesus Symbol of God and the Notification several years back. Since then Fr Haight, barred from the seminary faculty, has continued his writing, and also taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York. But now, he is barred from further theological writing and from teaching, even at Union. The reason, it seems, is that he is not willing to recant and disown what he wrote in Jesus Symbol of God.

Now, as I have just said, it is von Balthasar I love to read, and he is the one I find inspiring to me in my interreligious, comparative theology. While I admire the solidity and clarity of Fr Haight’s writing, Jesus Symbol of God but also his other works too, it is not the kind of theology that helps me very much in the work I do. I also recall that when Fr Haight’s book came out, it quickly became a hot topic in theology, and the early reviews of it were quite varied, some positive, and some quite critical of this or that aspect of the book. I recall hearing Fr Haight speak about reactions to the book at the Catholic Theological Society annual meeting one year. Even at that point, there were some 25 or 30 reviews of it (the author in me dies of envy), and many of them engaged in the academic delight and duty of giving Fr Haight a hard time. I have taught the chapter of it on world religions in my classes, first at Boston College, and now at Harvard, and while there are things I admire greatly in the chapter, both my students and I found cause to quarrel with the book and the way in which Fr Haight explains the relation of Christ, Christianity, and the world religions.

I think the mixed reaction to the book was a fine thing, and am fairly sure that Fr Haight himself had no problem with it. Such are the ups and downs of academe, and it is through this critical exchange, sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh, that our work gets done.

And so I was disappointed years ago by the investigation of the book and its author, by his dismissal from the seminary faculty, by the Notification, and now by this silencing. Even though I do not agree with all that Fr Haight wrote, I thought the academic give and take was the best way to sift out the good and the bad, what would endure and what would be forgotten, in Jesus Symbol of God. The Notification was quite clear, and the problems were known and widely discussed, but I had hoped that we had all moved on, Fr Haight to his other writings, and the rest of us to our own ways of reflecting on Christ today. But silencing?

Silencing is a terrible, awesome thing. In Hinduism, for millennia it has been a way of spiritual discipline, a hard practice by which a sage (muni) goes down inside herself or himself and finds still deeper and more lasting insights into reality, Reality. Such sages, by their austere penance of silence, were known to build up a terrible inner heat — tapas — which could erupt at the most unpredictable moment. Perhaps Fr Haight, who has taken the silencing with seeming equanimity, will likewise accumulate tapas for all of us. Global warming, indeed.

But on the larger scale, there are two things I really want to say. First, it is true that I have no inside information about the Vatican, no connections, no influence, and cannot pretend to speak as an expert on Vatican matters, and it is not my place to imagine telling Rome what to do. But it does seem to me counterproductive to have silenced Fr Haight at this point, all the more drawing attention to him and his work. He shall be remembered forever, in theological circles, for this event too. Perhaps there are places in the Church where the silencing will produce a desired caution and even fear in theologians, but here in the United States, my guess is that it is mainly the Vatican that comes off looking bad; such is our media , and how we instinctively take sides in disputes like this. Correct me if I am wrong in guessing this outcome. It would have been better, wise, kinder, more productive, more charitable, to let Fr Haight write what he wants, and teach at Union, letting the rest of us, who do really care about Jesus and his meaning for us, to judge whether he is to be in our bibliographies and on our reading lists or not. Silencing simply interrupts and delays the necessarily slow process of making up our minds on his writing; there is simply no way to substitute for the learning each of us must do, sooner or later.

Second, and although, again, I really do love reading von Balthasar and will go back to reading him and (for a course) the Hindu theologian Ramanuja (about whom I wrote in Advent) once I am finished writing this blog, I am all the more and endlessly edified by Roger as intellectual, writer, teacher, Jesuit. He wrote what he thought, in simple and austere honesty, working out his ideas step by step. He wrote, as he saw it, for the Church and for his students. It is, I am sure (though guessing), impossible in his eyes to take it back, to recant, to change what he wrote. And so, without ‘going public’ with denunciations to the press or media campaigns or inflammatory websites, etc., Roger has simply accepted this austerity of silence. As if to say, without saying, something like this: “I accept the decision of the Vatican, I will be silent. I cannot unwrite what I wrote or unthink what I thought, but neither is it my place to change the rules so late in the game. I stand by my book, and I will not speak.” In this way, Roger, whose ideas I share only somewhat, is all the more one of my intellectual heroes. We need to think and write honestly, as if everything is at stake, no matter what the cost. Roger’s doing this, and taking all this so seriously (as has the Vatican, to be sure), upgrades the value of what all theologians do, and reminds us of what is at stake in our daily thinking, writing, praying, teaching. It is important enough to fight about, and to suffer for.

I do hope the silencing ends soon, before Roger’s tapas sets us all ablaze. But for now, what he does not say is the most eloquent way for him to keep teaching us.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Conversion of St. Paul

- by Maître François, miniature from Augustine's "La Cité de Dieu", book I-X, c. 1475-80, Museum Meermanno Westreenianum, The Hague (Biblical Art on the WWW)

Richard Williamson

I saw posts around blogdom about the ex-excommunication of those reactionary critics of Vatican II, the SSPX bishops. It really bothers me that guys like this get off the hook while others endure the continued wrath of the CDF (see Fr. James Martin's post at America's blog). One of the bishops - Richard Williamson - is especially notorious for his anti-Semitism. If you can stand to, take a look at this truly disturbing interview with him .....

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sermon on the mount

Today I saw this video clip (below) of the sermon on the mount scene from the movie Jesus. Jesus is shown first, praying alone, the disciples bickering while they await him, and then he descends to talk to the huge crowd. He doesn't keep himself aloof but walks amongst those listening, answering questions and laughing at good natured heckling. It's worth a watch (you just have to get through the first minute of the video, which is the end of a previous scene of Pilate and one of his minions talking) .......

Watch Jesus the Movie (1999) [DVDRip, 1.33 FS, Eng] - QuincyMKT Disk2.avi in Faith Videos  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

If it's Tuesday: part 1

- Delphi, Greece (this photo and all the others are from Wikipedia Commons)

I was looking through an old cabinet today and found my mom's big collection of stuff, including an itinerary, she had saved from the one and only trip to Europe taken by me, my sister and my mom just after we all graduated college. We had neither the money nor the nerve to travel there on our own in a way that would allow us to really get to know places and people, so we ended up like the guys in that old movie If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, on an insane 10 countries in 21 days tour. It was an amazing trip, though fraught with perils ..... have you ever seen what Europeans call toilet paper? .... still I thought I'd try to remember some of the places we went ....

We spent the first three days in England. I was really homesick so I mostly sulked and whinged while we were there and the culture shock kept us from doing much on our own, but I remember going to a play at the Young Vic in London and taking a train trip to Oxford.

- Blackwell's bookstore in Oxford

Day 4 - Greece. Our hotel was in Athens and we visited the Parthenon, of course, but more interesting was a side trip my sister and I took to Delphi. We got on the wrong bus filled with French tourists and didn't understand a word of the spiel, but still we'd heard our philosophy teacher mutter "I'm not the oracle of Delphi" so many times, it was worth it. We next stayed in Olympia and I remember that well because dinner was octopus (yikes!) and there was a small earthquake while we were there. Next stop - Corinth. I can still remember the canal ....

- Corinth canal

Day 9 - Italy. We took an overnight boat from Greece to Brindisi and then stayed in Bari. It's the town where St. Nicholas' relics lie, but at the time I wasn't a Christian, so all I noticed about Bari was the pasta :)

The next day we piled onto the bus that would be our transport for the rest of the trip, and stopped at Pompeii (interesting but a bit creepy) on the way to beautiful Sorrento ...

- Sorrento

From there we took a boat to the island of Capri. One of the great things about the trip for me was seeing all the places I'd read about in art and philosophy and history classes .... Capri was the hangout of the emperor Tiberius and as we drove up to the top of the island, I remembered a teacher saying Tiberius would have people he didn't like tossed from the cliffs. One of the big tourist draws of Capri is the Blue Grotto - I remember the grotto especially because I was almost decapitated by the low chain hanging across the entrance :)

- Capri

Leaving Capri, we took a boat to Naples but I don't really remember being there - odd, as it's the traditional home of pizza :) - and then we boarded the bus to drive to Rome. If only I'd been a Catholic then, I probably would have visited many more churches, but still we did visit St. Peter's, along with the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, and history geek that I was, I loved seeing Hadrian's tomb and the Roman Forum.

- Vatican Museums

Next, we went on to Florence. For some reason I don't remember much about Florence either but I do have a (bad) photo of the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistry.

- Florence

Day 13 .... we stopped off in Padua at the Basilica of Saint Anthony, and then went on to Venice ... this at least I remember. The tour visited a glass-blowers workshop and the Piazza San Marco and then we walked around on our own.

- Santa Maria della Salute, Venice

Check out part 2 of the trip ......

If it's Tuesday: part 2

- the peak of Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland (this photo and all the others are from Wikipedia Commons)

This is the second part of my post on the one trip I and my family made to Europe, long, long ago (part 1) ......

Day 14 - next we were off to Inssbruck, Austria through the Dolomites (the Alps!) ....

- Innsbruck

We were pretty shell-shocked by this time, but happy too because we could finally put our college German to the test :) From here we drove through Liechtenstein to Lucerne, Switzerland. I remember Lucerne well - I had an open-faced asparagus sandwich in a restaurant there and later we all had a very strange pizza (with capers). Still later, while my brave sister took a cable car to the top of Mt. Pilatus, my mom and I walked around the city and looked at the lake and the covered bridge.

- Lake Lucerne and covered bridge

Then we were off for Germany, driving through the Black Forest, home to the giant earthworm :) and cookoo clocks. I so much wanted to buy one (clock, not worm) but too expensive. We then passed through the university town of Heidelberg, ending up in Frankfurt.

- Heidelberg Castle on the hill behind Old Bridge

From Frankfurt, we took a boat trip on the Rhine ....

- the Rheingau

.... then got back on the bus and drove to Cologne (one of the German cities devistatingly bombed in WWII) where we visited the cathedral and a MacDonald's that got their hamburgers out of cans (I only ate fries, of course).

- the Gero Crucifix in Cologne cathedral

Next we passed through Amsterdam, Netherlands, checking out the Rijksmuseum and a place that sold diamonds.

- the Prince's Canal in Amsterdam

We went through Rotterdam the next day and on to Brussels, Belgium. I don't remember a lot about Brussels, aside from the dinner there - my sister and I were the only vegetarians in the tour so we often ended up eating weird things, but at this hotel they made us wonderful omelettes filled with vegetables.

- Grand Place, the central market square of Brussels

Days 20 and 21 - Paris. Our first day's tour encompassed the usual suspects - Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, etc., The second day we were on our own and were so pooped that we didn't do much, just rode the metro around the city and visited the Louvre

- Notre Dame de Paris

And then it was home again, home again, jiggity jig.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Stained Glass

I stumbled upon a Wikipedia page with hundreds of stained glass window pics of saints. Here's one of St. Agnes ....

Inaugural Poem

I know nothing about politics, so it wasn't until I watched an episode of The West Wing that I realized there was such a thing as an "inaugural poem" .... for instance, for JFK's inauguration, Robert Frost wrote a new poem entitled Dedication but he couldn't see well enough to read the words, so instead he recited another of his poems from memory, The Gift Outright .......

The land was ours before we were the land's.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England's, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

Maya Angelou wrote the poem for Bill Clinton's inauguration. Here's a YouTube of her reading it ...

The person chosen to read the inaugural poem for Barack Obama was Elizabeth Alexander, a professor of African-American studies at Yale University and a personal friend of the Obama family. Here's the text of her poem ....

Praise song for the day

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Saint Sebastian

- by Lucas van Leyden


For those who didn't get to hear Bishop Gene Robinson's prayer at the Lincoln Memorial event, passed over as it was by by HBO and MSNBC, here it is below on YouTube, posted there by Sarah Pulliam of Christianity Today (ht to Episcopal Cafe) ........

Sunday, January 18, 2009

What are you looking for?

I especially like the reading for today - Jn 1:35-42 - where Jesus meets his first two disciples ....

The two disciples ... followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’

Jesuit Rob Marsh wrote an excellent homily for the reading that brings that meeting to life. Here it is below .....


Sunday Week 2 Year B
January 19th, 1997
Robert Marsh SJ

This year epiphany pursues us. In these weeks each gospel speaks about the way God is discovered in our lives. Today the epiphany takes the form of an awkward encounter. In an unexpected question: “What are you looking for?” In a question given instead of an answer: “Where do you stay?” In an answer that itself is a question: “Come and see.”

You can’t make anything of this prickly conversation without letting yourself get inside it. From the outside it’s just words. Just noise. Just some story of dead people, long dead people. But from the inside it’s alive—it’s epiphany. So step inside with me for a moment or two. Join those two travellers on the road, step inside their skins, and feel what it’s like to be walking the dusty roads, trailing after someone you hardly know, on some fool’s errand, for someone else. Following this guy, trying not to be seen, because, for the life of you, you don’t know what you are supposed to do if he spots you. How long have you been trailing him? Too long perhaps and the midday heat is annoying you and the thirst is annoying you but you don’t want to risk losing him to stop. And then in your daydreaming you almost run into him. He’s stopped. He’s right in front of you, staring right at you. And, scared out of your skin, you are trying to put together some apology or explanation, when he smiles a little and, never taking his eyes off yours, says “What are you looking for?” What are you looking for? What can you say? You start to say something lame but you are still caught by his gaze and you realise you don’t want to lie to him. So what are you looking for? What are you searching for? For a good cool drink? For a place to sit down? For peace and quiet? Oh, for some sense to life, and some security from debt, some safety from disease, some hope for tomorrow, some love to give and receive. What are you looking for? What are you really looking for? For peace on earth? For an end to death and dying? You don’t know! Too small or too big those desires; too easy or too risky. You don’t know what you are looking for but you know you want something, you know the voice that wakes you in the night—in the hour of the wolf—and whispers your name and won’t let you sleep as you chase in circles the fears and the hopes of twilight. You know you are searching—and searching for words to express the search—but all that comes out in the end is “Where do you stay?”

It seems to be a good answer because his smile broadens and his eyes cloud as he goes inside to search for an answer worthy of your question. You’ve surprised him. Where does he stay? Where does he call home? Where are his roots and his sanctuary? He too is drawn deeper. Where does he find the sap for his vine, the blood for his body, the breath for his spirit? Who does he belong to? He’s quiet for a long time—as long as you took to answer his question—and then he reaches out his hand to take yours and says, “Come and see.” And you do. And both your lives are never the same again.

“Look,” says John the Baptist, “there’s the Lamb of God.” A promise of great revelation, of great epiphany, of great mystery. But the revelation comes on a street corner. The epiphany shines in the obscurity of a restless, searching heart. The mystery unfolds in a late afternoon of conversation. Look where we find God—where God finds us. Look how the kingdom comes, look how we become disciples, look how God comes among us. In a human voice, in a human yearning, in the touch of a human hand.

But are we looking for Jesus? Are we ready for him? And, above all, are we willing for our lives to never be the same again?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jamie Wyeth

I came upon this painting today, Pumpkinhead - self-portrait by Jamie Wyeth, thanks to Jeff's post on Andrew Wyeth, who has just died. Interesting.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jeremy Sisto

- Sisto in his new Law and Order gig as Detective Cyrus Lupo (L)

Part two of "January is Actors-I-Like Month" (Lance Henriksen being #1) is about Jeremy Sisto. I picked him for two reasons - one is that he's mostly known as the insane Billy from Six Feet Under although he's done a lot of better work, and the other is that I first noticed him when he played Jesus in the movie of the same name .... hard to not like him after that :) So here's a bit about some of his movies ....

Grand Canyon
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill) in 1992 and starring Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell and Alfre Woodard, this was a kind of odd film about the difference one person can make in another's life. Sisto played Kevin Kline's teenaged son, Roberto. Ebert really liked it and gave it four stars.

Suicide Kings
This 1997 film starred Christopher Walken and told of a group of rich kids who kidnap a mobster. Not one of my favorite films and the Tomatometer gave it just 36% points, but Christopher Walken!

I may be prejudiced but I think this 1999 tv miniseries is the best Jesus movie of them all. Some of what makes it different from other Jesus movies - it shows an ongoing relationship between Jesus and a still alive (for a while) Joseph, a love relationship between Jesus and Mary of Bathany (nipped in the bud), a Satan dressed in modern garb who tempts Jesus not just in the wilderness but also in the garden by showing him a future in which men kill in his name, and a Jesus who laughs and weeps, skips stones on the Sea of Galilee, gets ticked off, tells bad jokes, and dances the night away. Here's a trailer for the Jesus miniseries ....

Julius Caesar
I really liked this 2002 tv miniseries which starred Sisto as Caesar, Richard Harris as Lucius Sulla, Chris Noth as Pompey, and Christopher Walken as Cato the Younger. I'd never cared so much about the guy who'd wept over Alexander the Great's accomplishments, but the movie made him seem a real person who loved his little daughter and who refused to dump his politically outre wife even on threat of death.

So, if all you know of Jeremy Sisto is what you've seen on Six Feet Under, give him another try.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009



Saw this in the news today from Comment in the Guardian ....


Why children are the first casualties of war in Gaza
- Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

January 1: A wounded Palestinian child screams as she arrives to the Al-Shifa hospital after an Israeli air strikein Gaza City. Photograph: Fadi Adwan /Getty Images

In war, everyone dies: men, women, children, civilians and fighters, the innocent and the villains. Every death is ugly and sad. But the dead bodies of children drop us into a deep pit of shame and sadness: they make us angry,
vulnerable and hopeless.

As I am writing, 315 children have died in Gaza in the last 19 days. Most probably, more will have died by the time this is published. About a third of the dead and injured have been children.

The dead children in Gaza take me back two years, to Israel's last war, with Lebanon. Again, it was the children who were dying. I remember seeing seven children lying together on a filthy brown blanket - next to the bodies of their relatives and parents - after their house, in the village of Qana, was bombed by Israeli planes. They all had acquired the monochrome beige colour of the debris they had been buried under all night. They had a look of astonishment, agonised confusion, their lush lips twisted, their mouths stuffed with dirt. But they looked peaceful even in the ugliness of their death.

All dead children look alike, that's the thing - even those mangled and disfigured by a Baghdad car bomb. They look asleep, not dead, just asleep after a long night of bombing and shelling.

There is no mystery as to why so many die in these wars: there are lots of children in Gaza - half of the population are children - so when you start bombing residential areas, they die.

Walk in any alleyway, refugee camp or slum in the Middle East and you will see them in their dozens, alive, and annoying: screaming, shouting and running around; chasing each other between cars, legs and push carts; gathering around any scene, a car with a flat tyre, a street scuffle - or just happily engaged in stone throwing matches. When these streets are hit, those annoying children are the first to die.

The families will grieve - and they will never forget. Last week, the day when four rockets were fired from south Lebanon towards Israel, I saw a Lebanese woman with a white headscarf sitting on the edge of her son's grave, just under a kilometre from the Israeli border. The grave, made of marble, its edges painted in green, was fenced by few bushes of red roses still wet from the early morning rain. The woman's sunken eyes were filled with tears; she cried and talked to her son Ali in the grave. "I didn't see you when you died Ali, they took you to the hospital and buried you and I wasn't there, right Ali?" She wiped her face and the marble with tissues and cried more. "May Allah burn the hearts of those who killed you like they burned my heart."

"I cry for every dead son in the world," she told me.

"Everyone, even if he was a Jew. I don't want him to die. I am a mother and I know."


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Original Face

There's a light bulb in everyone
Bright enough to swallow the sun,
Earth and sky are all one taste,
There is just the original face.

- from a song by Stuart Davis

My sister has started a blog! :) It's of the pictures she draws every morning before she goes to work. This one shown above, the latest, is called "Original Face" and has to do with Zen Buddhism. As Wikipedia writes ....

The original face is a concept in Zen Buddhism. It originates in the following koan:

What did your face look like before your parents were born?

This koan is an invitation for one to recognize the empty nature of reality by looking beyond the particulars of one's socio-cultural and psychological understanding of self, body, and mind.